Flume – Never Leave Water Running at Home Again

A smart device that connects to the water supply coming into your house to monitor usage and leaks sounds like a great idea, but it also sounds like it could be complicated to install. Not the case with Flum: installation is very easy and setting up an account is even easier.

The Flume water sensor keeps an eye on your household water usage. (Image from flumetech.com)

What Is Flume?

Flume is a wireless device you physically connect to your home’s water meter and with the help of Wi-Fi, a physical Flume bridge, and a smartphone application, it monitors your home’s water usage and can immediately alert you if a leak is detected in your home. Installation and setup take less than 15 minutes and requires no plumbing skills to accomplish.

The main components besides the smartphone app are the Water Sensor and the Bridge. (Images from flumetech.com)

Is Installation Really That Easy?

Yes, installation is really quite simple. The hardest part of the installation is probably going to be finding the water meter on your property and gaining access to it. At least here in Florida that typically involves cutting back the grass that has grown over and sometimes into the hole in the ground that contains your water meter. In my particular case, I had just had my front yard completely re-landscaped, so my water meter lid was very easily accessible. The only challenge I had was removing some of the excess dirt and sand that had fallen into the compartment during the landscaping activities.

The Flume kit even comes with a tool that helps you open the lid on the box for your water meter. (Image by Skip Owens)

But before I go any further, let’s take a step back. The first step in the Flume installation process is to ensure you have a water meter that is compatible with the Flume monitoring device and that you have all of the necessary components to make the entire system work. Flume is compatible with about 95% of the water meters in use in the United States, but it is still a good idea to check. So here is what you need to do in order to check that your home setup is compatible with Flume:

  • Your home must have a wireless network (Wi-Fi). You must also know your Wi-Fi password.
  • Your home must have a water meter. If you don’t know where your meter is, click here for some tips on how to find your meter. If you don’t have a water meter, you may be able to have a plumber install one for you.
  • Your water meter must be compatible with the Flume device. Click here to see if your meter is compatible.
  • You must have an iOS (Apple) or Android device

If all of the above checks out for your home, then the next step is to get yourself a Flume and to download the Flume Water mobile app for either iOS or Android.

The two physical components involved with the Flume system are the water sensor and the bridge:

Water Sensor Specifications:

  • 4 lithium-ion AA batteries, 2-year battery life
  • 1000 ft range to bridge
  • Size: 5” x 4” x 1”
  • Weight: 11 oz
  • Connectivity: 915MHz RF

Bridge Specifications:

  • Power: 100-240 VAC, USB Power Supply
  • Size: 2” diameter, 4” high
  • Weight: 5 oz
  • Connectivity: 2.4 GHz 802.11 b/g/n wifi, 915 MHz RF

Once I found my water meter, the installation task was as easy as clearing out the loose dirt and sand away from my water meter, taking a picture of the meter and checking for compatibility within the app, and then attaching the water meter with what amounts to a “fancy bungee cord.” That’s it. The bridge is wireless and can be installed anywhere you have power (and within 1000 feet of your water sensor).

Is Flume Worth the Cost?

The night before I installed my Flume, I had to do some hand watering of the new landscaping that had just been installed in my front yard. Unfortunately, I somehow forgot to turn the hose off and it was left running for nearly 24 hours into my side yard. Luckily, I live in Florida which is the land of sandy soil so it wasn’t a flooding problem, but it did cost me some money. If I had just installed Flume 24 hours earlier, I would have received a notification that water had been left running and I would have shut the hose off. But that is how the timing of these things goes sometimes.

After shutting off the hose and cursing my back timing, I got Flume installed and setup in less than 15-minutes and walked away. As the days went by the Flume app started logging my family’s water usage and alerting me to potential leaks. Within about a day I got my first leak alert and it wasn’t a surprise. We had been fighting with a leaking toilet since we moved in, and now that I had Flume to tell me exactly how much water we were wasting it moved the toilet repair way up on the repair priority list.

You can see our house usage had a small unexplained water usage around 4am, after my daughter had already left for work, which is why we were notified about a potential leak, (Image by Skip Owens)

My daughter works at a grocery store, so it is not unusual for a shower to be running at my house at 2am or 3am as she is getting ready to go into work. So in the image above you can see the water usage followed by the 4am usage that was clearly not from a normal 4am activity. The application is smart enough to recognize usage patterns (even strange ones like my daughter’s erratic grocery store working schedule) so that someone showering in the middle of the night doesn’t trigger a leak alert but the toilet running an hour later does. Pretty slick. That leaky toilet ended up wasting about 0.5 gallons of water per hour and would typically only be recognized as a leak in the middle of the night when no other usage was going on in the house. That may not seem like a lot of water, but over 24 hrs a day and 30 days a month that adds up to 360 gallons a month… the equivalent of 225 toilet flushes a month. So that one leak was using about as much water as our entire house normally flushes in an entire month.

The smarts of the application aren’t perfect, though. After all, it isn’t magic. My son came back one evening from fishing and was washing off his gear with the hose outside. He shut the water off and stowed the hose in the hose reel, but when doing so he bumped the water handle to the hose and turned it on. It was a very slow trickle an I found it running the next day but the Flume app did not recognize it as a leak. But this was a bit of an edge case as it was truly only a small trickle of water. Even if this water had been released into the house, it would not have caused any significant amount of damage. But it was a reminder that the app and the system aren’t “all-knowing” and perfect. It won’t catch everything, but it does a good job of catching the big things.

After running Flume for just a few weeks now and having 2 incidents of leaving the hose on outside and identification of a toilet leak, I can say that Flume is worth the upfront price to install and run in your home. It only takes one time of leaving the water running in the house or having a leak to cause thousands of dollars worth of damage. In my case, Flume prompted us to fix a leaky toilet months ahead of what we probably would otherwise. The water we were wasting from that toilet probably wasn’t quite the purchase price of the Flume, but over the course of several more months, it would have been. And keep in mind that is just one leak, and a leak that was only causing me to pay for more water usage and not damage to my house. As a household that has more than one or two people living in it, I can say that the likelihood of accidentally leaving the water running is very high (considering it happened to us twice in just a few weeks time). That alone is worth the cost of the Flume, and that doesn’t even address the fact that it also detects more catastrophic pipe leaks that can cause tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Verdict

Flume is one of those products that you didn’t know you needed until you had it. With a family of 5, there are so many opportunities for us to waste water or accidentally leave it running, so Flume really does help keep us in check. It’s also nice to know that if we were ever to have a major leak, I would know almost immediately and be able to do something about it. Technology can often be a solution looking for a problem, but I think with Flume it is safe to say that leaks and inadvertently leaving the water on is a problem we all have and this device solves that problem nicely.

Flume is available now for $199 from the Flume website and from Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I was provided a Flume Water Monitor for the purpose of this review, but Flumetech had no input into the review content.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links.

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This post was last modified on October 17, 2019 12:26 pm

Skip Owens: @https://twitter.com/skipowens?lang=en A rocket-scientist, father of 3, amateur astronomer, piano/keyboard player and soon to be sci-fi author who wears his geek badge with pride.